Check out our latest magazine... Read Online

Highweald Estate: Wines of Outstanding Natural Beauty

One of the wonders of Sussex is the capacity to create food and drink of outstanding quality and Highweald Wine is one such example, producing English Sparking Wines of exceptional standard – Robert Veitch went to find out more, and enjoy a glass or two

Nestled in the pristine medieval landscape of the High Weald, among West Sussex’s rolling, wooded hills, lies Highweald Wine, one of England’s finest sparkling wine estates. It was there that I met my amiable host, Winemaker and Managing Director Robin Langton. His enthusiasm for English Sparkling Wine is infectious and it wasn’t long before I was learning more about this fascinating place, with a glass of sparkling wine in hand.

Their award-winning wines are made with skill and care from vines grow on the area’s ancient clay and sandstone soils. Soils that have been prized for generations for their ability to sustain farmland and wildlife, and which now provide the perfect place to create opulent wines that are satisfyingly complex and easy to enjoy.

“This is an old medieval landscape – it’s wonderful land,” said Robin.“These were arable fields until 2014, now they’ve produced an International Wine Challenge (IWC) Trophy winner. It’s a pleasure to farm here.”

This landscape is so special that it’s been awarded the protected status of ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ (AONB), and Robin and his team go to great lengths to act as custodians of these unique surroundings. There are bat boxes, bird boxes and beehives; sheep graze the vineyards in
the autumn. There are 2 metre wide strips around the periphery of the fields planted with native seeds. “Monoculture is the past, we’re moving forward as part of the natural ecosystem, which we’re keen to propagate,” Robin told me.

Robin grew up in Sussex before spending 20 years making wine in California, France, Australia and New Zealand. Now he’s back and is excited to be making wines on his home turf, which  he describes as some of the most exciting winemaking terroir in the world. He told me, “Thoughtfulness, location and quality are key to what we create. We have a young forward-thinking team, with domestic and international experience. These are exciting times for English wine, because of the progression in quality over recent years, and as an industry, we should strive to produce the best wines we can.”

And they are doing well. Despite their relative youth (the first wine was released in 2020), they appear in some of England’s most prestigious addresses, including The Dorchester and Berkley hotels, The Ivy, The Gore, and Hawksmoor. Highweald make their wine in the traditional way, with no shortcuts or quick fixes. “We aim to produce the best English Sparkling Wine. We are not trying to be Champagne,” revealed Robin. “We’re a luxury product, the pinnacle of English wine.”

In fact, sparkling wine is not even a French invention, it’s English. In the 17th century it was Christopher Merret who first documented the deliberate addition of sugar during a second fermentation to produce sparkling wine. The process was made all the easier because the English could produce glass bottles of sufficient strength so they wouldn’t explode.

Robin led the way to the Garden Bar, which opened in 2023 and overlooks the vineyard. The impressive grounds were designed by the renowned Brighton based landscaper and garden designer, Andy Sturgeon. Visitors are encouraged down the inviting curves of the gravel path, through sculpted beech saplings and planting, that leads onto the decking laid out with enticing tables, chairs and parasols. The adjacent pavilion provides seating around oak tables for those days when the weather is being typically unpredictable.

Vineyard tours and tastings are twice daily, Saturday to Sunday. They take one and a half to two hours and end at the Garden Bar with a tasting of their flagship sparkling wines, the NV Brut and NV Rosé, accompanied by a generous selection of local charcuterie, cheese and bread. The tour is an excellent route into English Sparkling Wine, and a lovely way to spend half a day during the summer. Leigh Quigley, the Hospitality Manager, told me, “Come along, take the tour and try the wine, you’ll be glad you came.” The Garden Bar is also available for venue hire, and there’s a Michelin starred chef available, to help make the occasion even more special.

As Robin popped the cork on the NV Brut and filled our glasses, the fine, voluminous mousse slowly settled in the flute. Light straw in colour it’s opulent on the nose, with a nod to spice and fresh toast. Gentle, persistent bubbles proliferate in the most delightful way leading to a generous, lingering finish. When awarding this wine with three trophies, the IWC judges commented, “This non-vintage blend captures the essence of English Sparkling Wine. It has a citrus lemon-flower nose with saline citrus fruit. It threatens to bite your palate but then softens and deepens into a fine finish.”

Like the NV Brut, the NV Rosé, is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – the classic grape varietals of Champagne. Like its sibling, it has a fine, persistent mousse, with an enticing vibrancy about its blushing pink hue. A nose of summer berries hints at what is to come, being easy on the palate with hints of red apples, sour cherry and stone fruits. It’s a wine to enjoy for every occasion.

As we rounded off our afternoon, Robin added, “We’re really pleased with where we are right now, although we don’t sit and enjoy our wines often enough ourselves. These are wines for a special occasion, an affordable luxury. We’ve created something to elevate life’s special moments.”

Highweald is an oasis, a relaxed atmosphere, an enjoyable experience, superb wines, and beneath blue skies on summer’s day it was a wrench to leave.

 

Highweald Wine

Deaks Lane, Ansty, RH17 5JBP

01444 417206

www.highwealdwine.com

info@highwealdwine.com

More from Food and Drink

  • Recipe: Sizzling Spare Ribs with BBQ Sauce

    The perfect spare ribs for your summer barbeque!

  • Recipe: Salted Caramel Praline Brownie

    Baker and author of Postal Bakes, Lucy Burton, will have you drooling at these divine brownies.

  • Recipe: Olive Oil, Pistachio & Lemon Cake

    This simple but delicious cake is made in a food processor, so it takes just minutes to prepare. Serve it with a simple lemon and sugar glaze and sprinkle with a few roughly chopped pistachios and dried rose petals

  • Recipe: Pappardelle with Rose Harissa, Black Olives & Capers

    Pasta is perfect for an easy spring supper and ‘Pappare’ means ‘to gobble up’ in Italian, which is the destiny of this dish! If you prefer a little less spice, then simply reduce the quantity of harissa

  • Mary Berry's Mediterranean All-in-One Chicken

    This is a great way to feed the family as the chicken and veg are all cooked in one very large tray in the oven. It takes only minutes to put everything together then it sits in the oven for under an hour with no fussy finishing off to do and only one pan to wash up.

  • Recipe: Simple Fish Curry

    Cooking a curry from scratch can feel a little daunting but this traditional Burmese recipe is really easy. Lightly spiced, warming and stunningly simple, this curry is one you’ll return to again and again

  • Recipe: Easter Leg of Lamb

    When it comes to Easter feasts, you can always look to Italy for a sublime celebration of food, family and faith. This Easter leg of lamb with an Italian twist is the perfect dish to serve to your brood over the bank holiday

  • Recipe: Chocolate Peanut Buttercups

    The dreamy combination of chocolate and peanut butter is indulgent and decadent so the perfect treat for Easter. These little beauties contain only a few ingredients (with a vegan option) and are quick and super easy to make

  • Recipe: Prune and Orange Hot Cross Buns

    As a master baker and judge of ITV’s Britain’s Best Bakery, Peter Sidwell knows a thing or two about hot cross buns, as this fragrant and delicious recipe testifies.

  • Kids Zone: Giant Pancakes

    Batter up! It’s time for some pancakes fun and flips with Sara Whatley’s easy-peasy giant pancakes!

  • Recipe: Choux Hearts with Berries

    Celebrity MasterChef contestant Lisa Faulkner knows full well that food is the language of love. So, what better way to woo your beloved on Valentine’s Day than with these stunning choux hearts?

  • Recipe: Truffled Macaroni & Smoked Haddock Bake

    Want something that combines supreme comfort with a little decadence? Well look no further than this divine truffled macaroni dish with an extra boost from smoked haddock

  • Recipe: Nigel Slater's Lamb Hotpot

    We’re getting to that time of the year when rustic food comes packed with extra appeal.

  • Ever So Easy Beef Bourguignon

    This simple recipe by Adele Trathan virtually cooks itself, but it is deliciously succulent and flavoursome. It’s ideal for a wholesome meal when you don’t want to be slaving over a hot stove

  • Recipe: Chinese-Style Glazed Pork Belly

    This Sunday (22nd) marks Chinese New Year. So we’re tucking in to a traditional Chinese dish, to celebrate the year of the rabbit!

  • How to make wild garlic and cheddar scones

    This savoury scone recipe from Mary Goodsell works perfectly alongside a bowl of hearty soup, or simply with salty butter and a smear of marmite.

  • Very healthy no-bake chewy breakfast bars

    Mary Goodsell believes that healthy food should always taste delicious, and these no-bake chewy date bars are the perfect breakfast or afternoon pick-me-up to ensure you stay full and satisfied throughout the day.

  • An immune boosting recipe for homemade ginger shots

    Boost your immunity, digestion and get a good dose of antioxidants first thing in the morning with super easy homemade ginger shots by Mary Goodsell. These little shots of goodness can cost a fortune in the supermarkets, but they are really cheap and easy to make at home.

  • Recipe: Roasted Turkey Legs with Cranberries and Oranges

    If you fancy something a little different on Christmas Day and don’t want to be bothered with cooking a whole turkey, this one-pot twist by Mary Goodwell is a vibrant, zesty dish that will delight your guests.

  • Festive Christmas Pudding Recipe: Stir Up Sunday

    Stir-up Sunday is a Victorian tradition where the family would gather together to stir the Christmas pudding five weeks before Christmas, or the last Sunday before advent begins. This recipe, by Mary Goodsell, is a family favourite which evokes fond nostalgic memories.